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Frank D. Russo

The California Progress Report is published by Frank D. Russo, a longtime observer of and participant in California politics.

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Clinton Win in California Larger Than Polls Predicted Because of Huge Latino Turnout

frankrusso-small.jpg By Frank D. Russo

The California Field Poll released on Super Bowl Sunday before Super Tuesday’s presidential primary had a 2 point spread between Hillary Clinton at 38% of the vote and Barack Obama at 36%, with a pretty large 18% of likely voters being undecided. The actual results being tabulated right now, with 96.7% of the precinct votes counted and perhaps as many as 2 million vote by mail votes and other not yet tabulated, have a 9.5% spread with Clinton getting 51.9% of the vote and 42.4% voting for Barack Obama.

Wherever the final numbers head, and some pollsters expect the gap may narrow a point or two, Clinton’s actual vote was greater than that predicted by Field’s poll, which queried voters through the Friday before the election and was conducted during that last week.

In both Field’s released poll (page 8) and in a talk by its director, Mark DiCamillo, at the Institute for Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley the night before the election, he expressed caution because of possible difference in the makeup of the electorate that turned out and the modeling based of likely voters based on responses to questions asked. This, more than anything, appears to account for difference between Field’s poll and the actual results, and Mark DiCamillo confirmed that this morning in a phone conversation.

The single biggest difference in the makeup of the electorate was the 20% share of voters Field expected to be Latino and the 29% share reflected in exit polls. Major news organizations use the same data in these exit polls on California and you can read them on CNN’s site.

Latinos in California voted overwhelmingly for Clinton and accounted for a greater segment of the vote. Also, if you look at the exit poll data and compare it with the Field Poll, blacks which were expected to be 12% of the vote in the Democratic primary (a reasonable assumption since although they are 6% of the state’s population, they are mostly Democrat) only turned out at a 6% share of the vote.

I double checked with DiCamillo and he advised that the exit polls were designed to be reflective of not only day of election precinct voters but also those who cast vote by mail ballots as well.

So, even though there was an increase in the voting share of young voters, aged 18 to 24, who accounted for 16% of the electorate versus Field’s prediction of 13% (which is higher than in recent elections itself) and even though Obama won that vote, this was nowhere near enough to compensate for other differences in the race and ethnic makeup of the voters.

It will be interesting to learn if the Clinton campaign had an organized effort to turn out Latinos who are decline to state voters as part of a vote by mail strategy or on Election Day.

Lest some interpret the data to somehow reflect deep antipathies amongst Latino voters in voting for a black for president, cmmentators from the Pew Center and elsewhere have noted that Obama has done well with the sizeable Latino voting community in his home state of Illinois. So there isn't a glass ceiling of sorts here--either in future primaries where Latinos get to know him or in a general election contest with the Republican nominee.

Posted on February 06, 2008

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